— Craig Naivar (@Coach_Naivar) June 4, 2018
Kody Clemens drove in the go-ahead run with a double in the seventh inning, and starting pitcher Blair Henley worked into the eighth, lifting the Texas Longhorns to a 3-2 victory Sunday night over Indiana for the NCAA Austin Regional title.
The win propelled Texas into the Super Regional round of the playoffs for the first time under second-year coach David Pierce. It is Texas’ first Super Regional trip since 2014.
Indiana survived an elimination game earlier in the day, beating Texas A&M, 9-7, and then pushed Texas to the limit in a drama- and controversy-filled ninth inning.
In their last at bat, the Hoosiers loaded the bases against Andy McGuire on a single, a hit by pitch and a walk.
Frustrated at the turn of events, Texas coaches pulled McGuire, their third reliever since the eighth, and handed the ball to Chase Shugart.
Shugart promptly fanned freshman Sam Crail for the second out.
Next, Matt Lloyd stepped to the plate and sent a fly ball twisting into foul territory and toward the left field grandstand.
UT leftfielder Masen Hibbeler raced to the barrier to get in position, reached over the rail and appeared to make the catch.
But when he pulled his glove back, the ball came loose and landed on the outfield turf.
For a moment, Hibbeler thought he had made the grab and so did the fans, who celebrated what they thought was the game-clinching out.
Moments later, officials ruled the play a no catch, giving Lloyd new life. It didn’t last long.
Shugart recorded the strike out, prompting Pierce to turn and clinch his fists in triumph.
Clemens called Hibbeler’s effort a “crazy” play.
“He caught the ball,” Clemens said on ESPN. “Then I saw the ball on the ground. I thought he just tossed it.”
Pierce later told the network that he thought the umpire made the correct call.
“(Hibbeler’s) feet hit the ground, but he never really had total possession of the ball,” the UT coach said.
In discussing his at bat that produced the go-ahead run, Clemens said he was looking for a breaking ball, and he pulled it into the corner in right field.
“I was able to put a good swing on it,” Clemens said.